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Articles from 2004 In November

Pork Checkoff Study Projects Packer Capacity

If U.S. pork production grows in 2005, it could challenge packer capacity, even though that capacity is expected to grow, according to a new study funded by the pork checkoff.

The study shows current capacity is 407,875 head/day for federally in-spected plants.

“I think we're okay on capacity for this fall, even though we're going to have some days when we challenge that,” reports Steve Meyer, president of Paragon Economics and a consultant to the National Pork Board.

University of Missouri agricultural economist Ron Plain says he is concerned about large pork production growth predicted for late 2005. Recent USDA data indicates the breeding herd on Sept. 1 was up 1%, compared to a year ago, and producers planned to boost farrowings by 1%.

Slaughter capacity may be larger by next fall with the scheduled opening of a new producer-owned plant in St. Joseph, MO. The plant will slaughter about 8,000 hogs/day.

Ileitis Treatments Prove Successful

Ileitis, or proliferative enteritis, continues to cause disease problems in grow-finish and breeding herds. It is caused by Lawsonia intracellularis, a bacteria that affects the terminal part of the small intestine, or ileum.

Clinical signs in grow-finish range from slight diarrhea to an acute outbreak causing sudden death. Results are added disparity in pig weight and lower overall pig performance.

In the breeding herd, ileitis can be a challenge when naçve gilts exposed to the bacteria break with the disease. This scenario often occurs right at breeding time. Sick gilts don't cycle well and reproductive performance is off.

Disease control varies based on disease severity and pig flow.

Case Study No. 1

A client purchased 600 weaned pigs/week from a 1,500-sow, breed-to-wean operation. Pigs were placed in a 1,200-head nursery for eight weeks and then moved to the finishing barn. Health was excellent and death loss out of the nursery was under 2%.

Typically, the pigs performed well in finishing. Some finishing group closeouts achieved 2% or less death loss, while others occasionally closed out at 3-4%. Most losses in these higher-percentage death loss groups were in the last 30 days of finishing.

Postmortem examinations showed these pigs were performing well, but were very pale and had a large amount of blood in the small intestine. The ileum appeared thickened and lab work confirmed the diagnosis of acute proliferative enteritis (ileitis).

For ileitis breaks, we have had success using two approaches — vaccinating the pigs, or pulse-medicating with a feed-grade antibiotic two weeks before the typical onset of the problem.

In this case, performance wasn't much different in terms of feed efficiency or average daily gain between the groups that had high death loss and low death loss.

The producer elected to treat with feed-grade antibiotics two weeks prior to the expected onset of clinical signs. Treatment regime was 100 g. of tylosin/ton of feed for seven days. This program decreased late finishing death loss and cost about 25¢/pig. The producer felt he only needed to reduce death loss by two pigs/1,200 to break even, and he felt the improvement far exceeded that.

Case Study No. 2

This producer was 50% owner in a 1,500-sow, breed-to-wean farm and also received 600 pigs/week. Pigs were mixed in different nurseries throughout the area and then combined into several 1,200-head finishing barns.

Performance and health were excellent. But the pigs were consistently breaking with diarrhea, and death loss increased as pigs reached 120 to 140 lb.

Postmortems and lab results confirmed the presence of ileitis. We discussed different control options. The pigs responded well to individual treatment with injectable tylosin and the inclusion of tylosin in the water.

There were no further problems, but it appeared that this outbreak was affecting overall performance and slowing growth.

The producer elected to try an oral ileitis vaccine to see if he could prevent the problem. We recommended vaccinating pigs just before leaving the nursery at 10-11 weeks of age. Vaccination reduced most of the problems, but some finishing sites still occasionally broke with ileitis.

However, the producer admitted that he was only using a half dose of vaccine to save on costs. We recommended that he go to a full dose, and the problems were corrected.

Case Study No. 3

An 800-sow, farrow-to-wean operation had gilts that consistently broke with ileitis shortly after introduction into the gestation barn. The gilts would go to a holding pen for 60 days, be bred, then were grouped in the gestation area based on breeding dates.

Approximately 3-4 weeks later, about 30% of the gilts would break with a bloody diarrhea that would eventually respond to injectable tylosin. These gilts would recover, but they were much thinner. The lost weight resulted in smaller gilts at farrowing.

We advised the producer to vaccinate gilts with the oral ileitis vaccine as they came into the isolation barn, which has stopped outbreaks of clinical ileitis in replacement gilts.


Ileitis has been around a long time and has not changed much. Treatment and prevention methods can be quite effective, but need to be administered correctly and at the proper times.

Be sure to obtain an accurate diagnosis before implementing any control programs, because there are other diseases that look like ileitis, such as salmonellosis, hemorrhagic bowel syndrome, stomach ulcers and intestinal torsions.

Working with your local veterinarian to determine the cause and best course of action is always dollars well spent.

Big-Pen Finishing Wins with Auto-Sort

Large groups of pigs to be finished can be housed in one pen, provided that auto-sort technology is included to enhance feeding and marketing strategies.

A few years ago, the Pig Production Division of Belstra Milling Company, Inc., dabbled with housing 100-125 pigs/pen in grow-finish barns. “We really liked the way the animals related to people and to each other, because there was no social hierarchy,” says Malcolm De Kryger, vice president at the DeMotte, IN,-based company.

But sorting and marketing out of those large-pen barns was a real struggle.

“We really didn't have the technology to sort them. You'd try to sort the 20 largest pigs out of 400 in a barn, and even with 10 guys, you could hardly do it,” recalls Rob Buiter, head of contract finishing. He says the “roundup” would start a week in advance to gradually move groups of pigs out of a barn.

All that changed in late 2002 and early 2003, when Belstra worked with area producers to remodel or build about 20, 600-900-head, auto-sort finishing barns, says De Kryger. Some house hundreds of pigs in one big room in a barn. Others, like Iroquois Valley Swine Breeders (pictured), house 800 head divided into two groups.

What drives auto-sort systems is the scale. The scale can be set to divert pigs to the sort pen at the proper weights for marketing, based on packer buying patterns, says Jon Hoek, Production Strategy coordinator for Belstra.

“In an 800-head barn, you are going to have 30-lb. weight variation in a group, and that's where the auto-sort system comes in. It's like picking fruit. We want to pick the ripe ones first — take the top 10-15% at 270 lb.-plus — and leave the rest to grow for another week,” he notes.

Auto-sort systems being used are from Schick Enterprises (Figure 1), Staco-Choretime and Raytec, and one operation has both Raytec and Farmweld auto-sort systems. The systems are being used in both single- and multi-site operations, with pigs placed on feed at about 60 lb. Barns are filled in two-week intervals.

Today, the Belstra system finishes 150,000 pigs/year with roughly 45,000 pigs produced/year in the big-pen, auto-sort barns.

Belstra Background

Belstra Milling is a family-owned enterprise that just celebrated its 50th anniversary in business. The Belstra Group consists of the feedmill at DeMotte, five PIC gilt multipliers comprised of 7,000 sows in northwest Indiana and northeast Illinois, and a 160-head boar stud.

Genetics are the core business of the Pig Production Division, led by sales of semen and replacement gilts, points out Hoek. Barrows are fed out at multiplier farms, with excess barrow production contracted to area feeder pig finishers.

At the five multiplier farms, gilts are fed out and selected as replacements at 250 lb., while barrows are finished to 260-270 lb.

All of the different large-pen, auto-sort barns associated with Belstra feature totally slotted floors and are tunnel-ventilated. Barrows and gilts at gilt multipliers are penned separately. Wet-dry feeders are commonly used. Pen density is 8 sq. ft./pig.

Those building features are fairly standard. But the “free range,” large- pen design holds many attractions for the people working in the facilities and also for the pigs, says De Kryger.

“The personality of these pigs in big pens is good. They get along with people and with each other, partly because there is daily, direct interaction with people. There is no fright and no flight (response),” he observes.

Most Belstra auto-sort barns don't have aisles or alleyways (Figure 1). In a typical 40 × 216-ft.-long finishing barn, the space savings from not having a 3-ft. alley translates into an additional 648 sq. ft. (216 multiplied by 3), enough for 75-80 more finishing pigs based on 8 sq. ft./pig, says De Kryger.

Pigs appear very comfortable with producers hopping gates and walking in the pens to observe pigs, he notes. Producers are advised to walk pens two to three times a day.

Astute Management Required

De Kryger, and Belstra swine consulting veterinarian Tom Gillespie of Rensselaer, IN, agree that producers need to be astute managers to closely survey the health of such large groups of hogs. Producers should watch for pigs that are falling behind and especially look for gaunt pigs, says Gillespie. These may be timid pigs that are afraid to enter the scale. Auto-sort systems require pigs to cross the scale in order to access the food court.

Hoek points out that 75% of the building area is set up for sort pens (for load out), and as the general population or loafing areas where pigs run, play and sleep. Pigs usually sleep back-to-back from the edges of the room toward the center, providing the appearance of extra pen space.

That leaves 25% for the food court. It may appear cramped, but the goal is to provide enough space for the pigs to eat and leave, and not enough for them to loiter, says Hoek. “If pigs try to take a nap in the food court, they will probably get walked on,” he says.

Provide an 8 × 8 sq. ft. or 10 × 10 sq. ft. area in a corner as a hospital pen, suggests Hoek. Unlike traditional finisher barns, hospital pens are temporary structures in large-pen finishers. Once pigs feel better, they can be released back into the general population without being picked on, adds Hoek.

As a rule, pigs in the general population are relaxed and seldom fight except when barns are filled, adds Buiter.

Gillespie remembers the first time he experienced that relaxed atmosphere during an outbreak of swine flu in a 660-head pen in an auto-sort barn.

“I was able to easily walk through that unit. It was amazing. Except for a group of 12-15 pigs that followed me, other pigs did not even get up when I took their temperature! Granted, they had low-grade fevers and were not feeling the best, but I was able to walk right up to most of them and (quickly) give them shots without having to even corner most of them with a board.”

In the event of a respiratory disease outbreak in a large-pen barn, if wet-dry feeders are used, sick pigs may not have the energy to walk through the scale to get to the food court, he warns. Therefore, it may be wise to install some hanging nipple waterers in the general population areas.

Other Auto-Sort Advantages

Auto-sort systems offer real savings for marketing efforts, says De Kryger. Groups of 200 to 250 pigs move easily into sort pens that are set up 24-48 hours prior to shipping.

De Kryger dispels the notion there is a pecking order established in sorting pens. “There are no pecking orders in these auto-sort barns, so if you take 65 out, there is no new pecking order,” he stresses. “That makes it really possible to pull off a few head from each finisher barn to get the most uniform pigs possible.”

Belstra data shows sort loss is cut in half in auto-sort barns vs. conventional finishers.

Marketing labor is also greatly reduced, notes Buiter. Hogs have been “trained” to move in groups. They load and unload easier. Because the pigs have already been sorted using the scale, pigs can be removed to hit target markets as needed.

At times, Buiter has loaded trucks with 200 head of hogs in an hour by himself. At $15/hour, De Kryger points out that two men can load a semi with 200 hogs in a half-hour at a cost of just $15. In contrast, De Kryger estimates it takes three men one hour to load the same truck from a conventional barn — or triple the cost of the auto-sort barn.

De Kryger also estimates it costs half as much in pressure-washing labor to clean an auto-sort barn as it does a conventional finishing barn, due to less gating and pens.

In all, the savings in sort loss, sort labor, wash labor and feed amounts to several thousand dollars in savings/room/year for the big-pen, auto-sort barn, he adds.

Costs are higher for new auto-sort construction, however. De Kryger suggests a 1,000-head finishing barn with conventional gating will cost $7,000-$8,000 vs. $8,300 to $11,400 for a 1,000-head, big-pen finisher with auto-sort.

Belstra staff agree that the addition of big-pen with auto-sorting has allowed better control of the whole production process.

And while there are differences in the auto-sort systems Belstra uses, all have features that make them valuable, and any problem areas can be handled through management, says De Kryger.

Comparing Finishing Barn Performance

Performance data comparing one auto-sort barn and one conventional finisher in the Belstra system hasn't shown a clear advantage to the auto-sort barn, points out Jon Hoek, Production Strategy coordinator for Belstra Milling.

Table 1 reflects nearly identical results for average daily gain, feed efficiency and average daily feed intake, but about 4% less feed cost per pound of gain in favor of the auto-sort system, he says.

Numbers of fatigued market pigs, “off” butchers (lights, belly busts, etc.) and mortality rates are slightly higher from auto-sort barns, although Hoek stresses these results are not statistically significant when comparing auto-sort or conventional finishing operations.

Table 1: Results from Auto-Sort vs. Conventional Finishinga
Max-L Farms Big Pen Finishing w/ Auto-Sort 1,800-Sow Farm Hopkins Ridge Farms Conventional-Pen Finishing 1,200-Sow Farm
Barrows & gilts sold 20,089 16,668
Average sale weight 244 lb. 246 lb.
Average daily gain, 60 lb. to market 1.81 lb./day 1.9 lb./day
Feed efficiency 2.77 2.75
Average daily feed intake 4.99 lb. 5.2 lb.
Feed Cost/lb. of gain (U.S.) 0.2191 0.2226
Fatigued market pigs 0.38% 0.33%
Off butchersb 3.09% 3.19%
Mortality 1.85% 1.64%
a1st two quarters of 2004
bThese market hogs are sold as lights, belly busts, etc.

Never Too Hot, Never Too Cold

Odors are so minimal at a northern Iowa wean-to-finish barn that neighbors a half-mile away didn't even realize pigs were in the building for six months.

Father and son producers Don and Bert Huftalin built the 3,600-head facility three years ago with a mindset that considered return on investment rather than up-front costs. One place they didn't skimp was ventilation.

Their system, designed by the Danish company SKOV, was quite unlike any in the U.S. Totally mechanical, the system features computerized climate control through forced ventilation and high-pressure cooling that limits temperature fluctuations to a minimum, 24/7.

“The Danes know so much more about ventilation,” says Bert Huftalin, who also owns an 800-sow, farrow-to-finish operation with his dad near Malta, IL. Huftalin took time off from college and worked on a few European pig farms in the early '80s, and was always impressed with the air quality.

Pig concentration is much higher in densely populated countries like Denmark and the Netherlands, points out Marc van de Ven, SKOV export manager and an agricultural engineer. Barns are very close together, so farmers cannot afford to have air transmissions from one unit to another for disease reasons. Odor control is another issue because of the close neighbors. Most of the pig buildings are mechanically ventilated.

Huftalins' T-shaped facility is divided into three rooms of 1,200-head each. Temperatures in each room are preset according to growth phase and never fluctuate during the day; however, the room temperature does slowly ramp down in a linear curve over time.

If Day 7 temperatures are set at 85° F. for postweaned pigs, for example, and Day 14 temperatures are set at 80° F., the five-degree drop is achieved through increments of only 0.1 degrees about every three to four hours. In other words, the pigs don't feel a thing.

“The ventilation from minimum to maximum is absolutely linear. If ventilation is increased 1%, the rate of air going out of the building is increased 1%. It is a multi-step principle designed to save 60% of the energy consumed in a traditional system. That is the most important feature,” says van de Ven.

Basically, fans are always running in the most efficient position, he adds, and there are a minimal number of variable-speed fans, which van de Ven says are most inefficient. There are 10 chimney fans and four, 48-in. gable wall fans per room that serve as backup for the cooling system. Four of the chimney fans are directly connected to the 8-ft. pit.

Rooms are cooled by a 1,000 psi, high-pressure mister that adds humidity in the form of filtered, very-fine water droplets; van de Ven feels it is extremely important to avoid both too low and too high humidity levels for pigs. “The cooling system is equivalent to an evaporative cooler — something no one ever puts in finishing barns. It has paid for itself,” says Bert. “It is huge in rate of gain.”

Controlled air inlets are another critical component of the Danish system. “In our eyes, we cannot control ventilation if we have no control over incoming air,” continues van de Ven. “It is easy to get air out just by sticking in another fan. It is most important to make sure air coming in does not draft pigs and secondly, that air speed and air distribution at the animal level are always correct.”

Inlets are placed high on the 8-ft. sidewalls — something Huftalins' contractor struggled with during installation — and there are 144 of them. Rather than air dropping straight down on pigs along the outside wall, chilling them, it flows to the middle of the building to drop slowly and then circulate.

Draft is something the SKOV system avoids above all else, notes Henrik Bjaerge, worldwide service manager. He also notes that one computer controls the entire system. There are no thermostats.

Water Meter Is Useful Tool

Another SKOV feature that attracted Huftalin's attention was the water meter. “For $100 per room, the information generated is amazing,” says Bert. A computer graphic (Figure 1) indicates water consumption. The water-to-feed ratio, even if pigs are scouring, is very constant. If they eat 1 lb. of feed, they drink 2.2 lb. of water — slightly more in the summer. That makes it easy to track feed consumption, he points out.

That water:feed ratio is not nearly as accurate with nipple waterers or cups due to wastage, notes Marvin Wastell, GroMaster, Inc. of Omaha, NE. Wastell is the one who suggested SKOV to the Huftalins after seeing the systems in Denmark. His company sells the wet/dry feeders Huftalin uses. They are similar to those used by the Danes, which have zero water wastage, according to Wastell. Cup drinkers are used the first six to seven weeks after pigs arrive and then are turned off. The wet/dry feeders become the only water source.

The water meter raises red flags when something is wrong or something has happened, points out van de Ven.

Huftalin agrees. “If pigs get sick, water consumption drops and it usually shows up before they appear ill. It gives us a head start in treating sick pigs.”

Water intake is just one example of information the computer can spew. According to van de Ven, they can track every system setting and measurement in two-minute increments for the last three years at Huftalins' building. And they can do it from Denmark. Every three to four months he scans graphic printouts from the building and calls Huftalin to discuss any issues. Changes to the system can also be made from a remote location with a passcode.

Another important graph tracks temperature and humidity, notes the SKOV engineer, but there is more. SKOV provides technical service personnel to look deeper into system details for troubleshooting and fine-tuning.

Parameters of air flow, heating and humidity control are fine-tuned based on the graphs of data generated over time. Fluctuations and interactions between humidity and inside and outside temperature, for example, are scrutinized to make sure settings are still correct as climate conditions change.

High Investment Justified

There are thousands of SKOV systems around the world, says van de Ven, including at least 400 in Canada. Approximately 70% of the swine and 80% of the poultry operations in Denmark have the SKOV system.

He was hesitant to provide cost figures, because every system is designed for a particular building. In general, though, again depending on the size and type of building, a wean-to-finish project with the complete system (inlets, interlinking, exhaust, cooling, PC monitoring, remote access, computer) is between $30 and $40 per pig.

According to van de Ven, the company has been looking into the U.S. market the last four years. Other countries seem more willing to invest in sophisticated (higher investment) systems. “But the U.S. industry is slowly changing to optimize, instead of minimize, investment in facilities,” he says.

The Huftalins — Bert is a former Pork All-American — have a different philosophy. They spend more on a building than most people because they're in it for the long-term. “There is no question the SKOV system costs more than a tunnel-ventilated barn, but it pays for itself,” he notes.

Bert adds that it was an easier choice to install the Danish system because the building was new. “And we not only wanted a better environment for the pigs, but for the people — both inside and out. I told our vet that he would have to forget everything he knew about ventilation.”

Another problem with standard U.S. buildings from the Danish point of view is they are not tight. “If buildings are not tight, we cannot control air flow,” says van de Ven.

Better Performance in Iowa

Finishing pigs at the Illinois site are raised in naturally ventilated, curtain-sided buildings that cost a lot to heat. If they could, Bert would convert those units to the SKOV system.

Death loss is lower at the Iowa site — about 3% for wean-to-finish — and rate of gain is better with fewer lightweight pigs. Medication costs are also less in the SKOV building than in Illinois. They no longer vaccinate for myco-plasma, for example. Yet pigs all come from the same sow source.

The SKOV system is really linked to production, says Norm Hogrefe, a distributor from Storm Lake, IA. “The producer is able to monitor production along with ventilation together through one system. It ties information together in real time.

“U.S. producers need to learn how to control ventilation,” he adds. “We have changed a lot of air in a lot of buildings, but ventilated very few.”

Iowa State Honors Harris

D.L. “Hank” Harris, DVM, Iowa State University (ISU), was honored last month with the Henry A. Wallace Award, established in 1978 to honor an ISU alumnus who has made an outstanding contribution to agriculture.

Harris and colleagues at ISU discovered the cause of swine dysentery and collaborated in the creation of NOBL Laboratories in Sioux Center, IA. As vice president of Health Assurance at PIC, he originated and researched the concept of isolated weaning to eliminate various swine infectious agents. In 1987, he suggested stages of production should be placed on multiple sites, a practice that is standard today.

He and wife Isabel operated a 150-sow, farrow-to-finish unit in the 1980s.

Harris returned to ISU in 1992 as professor and chair of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Preventive Medicine. He also serves as professor of animal science and veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine.

Face-off Over Canadian Dumping

Just when we thought it was safe to peek out from behind our favorite politician's banner — bam! — we're hit with opposing arguments about the Canadian anti-dumping controversy.

As I write this, telephone calls, news releases and e-mails from both sides are pouring in.

At issue is the U.S. Department of Commerce's (DOC) preliminary decision to levy a 14% tariff on all live hogs from Canada. The 14% figure reflects the difference in price between the two countries. If a hog that sells for $114 in Canada sells for $100 in the U.S., the difference between them becomes the “dumping” margin between the two markets.

Mary Staley, attorney for the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) explains: “There are many ways for Canadian producers to minimize their dumping margins. Our view has been that if the Canadian government were to eliminate the subsidies, then this dumping case would not be necessary, because then you would have a free and open market. At that point, we believe prices would reach an equilibrium between the two markets.

“Just so everyone's clear — the dumping duties that were calculated are not about simply selling below cost. They are the price-to-price comparison between the two markets,” she adds.

Then the Pork Trade Action Coalition (PTAC) introduced the “Don't Tax Our Pigs!” advertising campaign in the Des Moines Register, signed by 77 Iowa farmers.

The PTAC ad explains how U.S. farmers rely on 10-lb. weanling pigs or 50-lb. feeder pigs from Canada to support their finishing operations. Iowa farmers bought over half of the five million Canadian pigs imported for finishing in the U.S. in 2003.

The NPPC-PTAC bickering is sounding like the presidential campaign.

The final decision about the anti-dumping suit is now in the hands of the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC). Their decision is expected next March.

Canadian Subsidies

Iowa State economist Dermott Hayes estimates Canadian producers received $4-6/pig through the federal subsidy program. The result has been 23 straight quarters of sow herd expansion in Canada with a corresponding number of sow herd contractions in the U.S.

“The attempt here is to ask pork producers in Canada to get themselves out of the subsidy programs,” he explains. “As the price of feeder pigs falls in Canada, that would encourage the Canadian sow herd to fall, and a slight increase in the U.S. feeder pig price would cause some movement upwards in the U.S. breeding herd. We then move back to the situation that would have occurred had the Canadians not used the subsidy programs in the first place.”

To be fair, the U.S. sow herd cutback cannot be laid solely at the feet of the Canadians. Other factors — PRRS, employee shortages, cost and difficulties siting breeding-farrowing units — have trimmed the U.S. sow herd and turned some producers to finishing Canadian pigs.

Things We Know

  • Using mid-October prices, the anti-dumping tariff will levy an entry tax of $4-5/head on weanling pigs, $7-8/ head on feeder pigs, $18-20/head on market hogs and $20-30/head on sows from Canada.

  • Canadians will be looking for finishers to avoid deducting the tariff from the delivery price. U.S.-Canadian contract talks will be strained.

  • Canadian packers will face larger runs of slaughter hogs. “Even if Canadian packers can run steadily at their record pace (just under 470,000/ week), they will be able to absorb less than 75% of the slaughter hogs they are now sending to the U.S,” explains Missouri economist Ron Plain.

  • Larger runs will put downward pressure on Canadian slaughter prices, while lighter runs in the U.S. may see packers bidding more aggressively.

  • Canadian finishers will find pig supplies plentiful and cheaper. Their U.S. counterparts may face a pig shortage and higher prices as they scramble to fill finishing barns.

  • While the anti-dumping tariff may slow the flow of pigs across the border — it does not change the number of pigs in North America. Fewer Canadian hogs slaughtered in the U.S. will likely be offset by an increase in Canadian pork exported to the U.S. and a decrease in U.S. pork exported to Canada.

“When you have an industry as mobile as pork production, it is important to have exactly the same policy in both countries,” Hayes states. “Otherwise, you will get a movement, either north or south, depending on which subsidizes greater.”

I am not qualified to judge who is right and who has been wronged. Like our elections, it depends on the accuracy of the information. Regardless of the ITC decision, the long-term implications are somewhat like the recent elections — we'll have to live with it for a while.

Trucks Represent Big Biosecurity Risk

Heightened attention is being placed on properly cleaning and disinfecting trucks to reduce the PRRS risk.

Replacement gilts and semen are arguably the chief concerns when it comes to transmission of the porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) virus.

But the industry has completely missed what is probably the next biggest biosecurity risk: PRRS virus spread from transport, says R.B. “Butch” Baker, DVM, director of Health Assurance, Premium Standard Farms (PSF).

The swine industry spent years worrying that PRRS virus was an airborne virus for which nothing could be done, he states.

Instead, Baker suggests focusing on practical problems like trucking, which can make a real difference. “Transportation is a biosecurity nightmare, and the trucking staff needs to get behind transport biosecurity,” he declares.

A central focus of PSF's trucking biosecurity program is a heat treatment system put in place two years ago at their Missouri location for use with all non-slaughter tractors and trailers to prevent disease transmission between farms, Baker explains. Heat treatment is applied with a 4.5-million-btu.-capacity industrial, natural gas heater retrofitted into two bays of an existing truck maintenance building.

Explains Baker: “Our process is monitored by infrared temperature probes at eight locations on the trailer. Once the heater achieves 165° F at all locations, that temperature is maintained for 10 minutes. We can do about 24 tractor and trailer combinations in a 12-hour shift.”

The process provides quick killing of viruses without total drying and kills viruses even in concealed locations where drying can't reach. It costs about $15/trailer.

The heat treatment system, called the “Trailer Baker,” was developed in collaboration with Temp-Air, a Burnsville, MN, company, and is an extension of Baker's research while at PIC.

For PSF in Missouri, the heat treatment system has eliminated virus activity from PRRS and Transmissible gastroenteritis (TGE) in breeding and gestation and nursery facilities.

“The result of this and other biosecurity efforts has been no sow farm PRRS or TGE outbreaks the past two winters in this 100,000-sow system,” declares Baker.

The validity of the PSF heat treatment procedure was tested and proven effective by Scott Dee, DVM, University of Minnesota, in on-site, full-size trailers and in models at the University of Minnesota. A bioassay system using PRRS-negative pigs was injected with samples taken from “spiked” positive trailers after the heat process; none became infected with the PRRS virus.

At PSF, once trucks have gone through the truck wash, cleaning and baking processes, a red seal is placed on each vehicle, says Baker. If a truck arrives at a PSF farm without the red seal, farm staff is empowered not to load that truck, he emphasizes.

PSF staff is sharing what they have learned with the swine industry, and is collaborating with others to find ways to make the system more efficient, says Baker. He spoke at the Leman Swine Conference Sept. 20.

product news

Large Abdominal Probe

The new Agroscan from ECM features a large, abdominal probe of 3.5 MHz, designed to evaluate loin muscle and fat thickness. The new probe is used with the Agroscan L system, which is lightweight, portable and easy to use. It features a 135-mm (5.3 in.)-long probe, allowing for transverse and longitudinal scans. The portable, ultrasound scanner has a built-in battery.
(Circle Reply Card No. 101)

Remote Monitoring System

Sensaphone announces the availability of the new Sensaphone FarmSitter, a remote monitoring system designed to protect farm premises from dramatic and potentially dangerous changes in environmental conditions. The FarmSitter remotely monitors swine buildings and other facilities 24 hours a day, alerting managers when environmental conditions fluctuate, threatening livestock, personnel, facilities and equipment. The system tracks conditions such as temperature changes, power failures, timers, alarms, excess humidity, water seepage, floods, intrusion, or other conditions.
(Circle Reply Card No. 102)

Fat Emulsifier

Kemin Agri-Foods North America announces the availability of a new fat emulsifier for swine diets that can increase net energy absorption in nursery pigs. According to the company, Lysoforte brand biosurfactant is based on patented technology and was designed for animals where fat absorption can be problematic. Increasing the efficiency of fat absorption will optimize diets and improve animal performance, according to the company. The active ingredients in Lysoforte are powerful biosurfactants that assist in fat absorption by facilitating the emulsification of fat in the feed.
(Circle Reply Card No. 103)

On-Board Tire Sanitizer

Monroe Truck Equipment, Inc. introduces the on-board tire sanitizer. The unit has the capabilities to help provide effective sanitation of tire treads and wheels of delivery and service vehicles, along with operator apparel and other related equipment that may need sanitizing prior to entering and exiting a facility. This simple system combines spray nozzles positioned above vehicle wheels with a storage tank and pump to apply disinfectants to tires while the vehicle is on the go. Units are available with disinfectant tanks ranging from 9 gal. for small vehicles to 240 gal. for semi trucks.
(Circle Reply Card No. 104)

Handheld Recordkeeping

Stock Mate is the newest program for the handheld pocket PC or laptop computer from Farm Works Software. Stock Mate is designed to handle multiple species, such as cattle, hogs, dairy and sheep. Farmers and ranchers can save time by entering records for each animal while in the pasture or barn. Records that can be entered include birth, mating, weaning, health, feed, weights, pregnancy checks, due dates, vaccination reminders or detailed history records for each animal. All records download into Farm Works' desktop program called Farm Stock, which has also been upgraded. It now features a redesigned full screen with user-friendly action tabs for quick data entry. Other features include saving multiple weights per animal and the option of entering additional health records for each animal. All reports can be exported in Excel, Word or text formats.
(Circle Reply Card No. 105)

Auto-Sort Software

Schick Enterprises has developed FarmIQ, software that strives to lower management costs and simplify the daily tasks normally associated with automatic hog sorting equipment. With FarmIQ's easy-to-use interface, little computer knowledge is required. The producer need only choose the task to be completed and the software will carry out the task. Manually moving gates is just one sorting task that is no longer necessary. Another feature is the accessibility to all scales and the detailed information they collect through one computer. Currently, FarmIQ supports all SortAll Revolution scales. It is the first in a series of auto-sort software to be released by Schick Enterprises.
(Circle Reply Card No. 106)

Rodent Control

Since many rat and mouse populations have grown resistant to certain types of rodenticides, specifically anticoagulants, Agrisel USA has developed Gladiator, an EPA-approved neurotoxin for anticoagulant-resistant rodents. Formulated for higher palatability to ensure consumption, a single dose is lethal to rodents — including the Norway rat, the roof rat and the house mouse. After consumption of the product, results are achieved within one or two days. Gladiator is safe for pets and animals.
(Circle Reply Card No. 107)

Send product news submissions to Dale Miller, Editor (952) 851-4661;

Ten Keys to Automatic Sorting

It is important to understand the advantages and challenges of automatic sorting, large-pen finishing barn designs, says Frank Brummer, owner and president of Farmweld, manufacturers of auto-sort equipment for hog barns.

In a talk at last summer's Pork Academy, Brummer drew on 28 months of inquiry into large-pen, auto-sort finishing systems installed in the U.S.

From that experience, he developed this top 10 list of the benefits of large pen auto-sorting:

  1. Better uniformity in size of pigs produced. Housing 25 pigs/pen discourages uniform production. Lack of uniformity is the number one cost to the pork industry today, says Brummer. National Pork Board data suggests this converts into a loss of $1-3/pig.

  2. Accurate marketing is enhanced. Data from Purdue University indicates there is $7,000-$10,000/year in revenue to be gained on a 1,000-head barn just from selling the right pigs on the right day.

  3. Labor savings are realized. Estimates are there is a $2,000/year savings or 76 cents/pig on a 1,000-head barn, says Brummer.

  4. Job satisfaction is improved. “Producers love working in these auto-sort barns, and truckers like to load out of these barns,” he observes.

  5. Improved feeding and throughput are achieved. “The key with automatic sorting is that we can separate the pigs into two groups — heavy and light — and we can feed them both the right diet,” states Brummer. By feeding pigs the right ration, energy levels in swine diets can be improved and this can boost throughput. Pigs should be split into heavy and light groups at about 135 lb. When it's time to sort pigs for slaughter, the producer only has to sort out of one side of the barn at a time.

  6. Better opportunities are provided to use ractopamine (Paylean from Elanco Animal Health). With a scale to record actual weights, this repartitioning agent can be used with more precision.

  7. Feed withdrawal is facilitated. Groups destined for market should be moved to the sort pen two days prior to shipment, says Brummer. Pigs should be taken off feed the last 12-18 hours before load out. This saves about 26¢/pig in feed costs. “Some people trucking pigs a long way can do all their feed withdrawal on the truck,” he notes.

  8. Animal welfare is improved. Pigs have the ability to find their own comfort zone in a large pen, according to Harold Gonyou of the Prairie Swine Centre, Saskatchewan, Canada. “If you move pigs into a 25-head pen and it's too hot or too cold, they cannot move to a more comfortable environment. But with large pens, pigs can find their own comfort zone,” comments Brummer.

    Pigs also get used to producers walking in those large pens, which becomes very valuable in easing stress at load out time, he notes.

  9. Tail biting and fighting are reduced because pigs learn “they can get away from each other,” explains Brummer.

  10. Death loss is reduced. New University of Pennsylvania research says that conventional barns had almost twice as many dead pigs in transit vs. automatic sorting barns (see article on p. 14).

Brummer says there is preliminary evidence that points to a slight improvement in meat quality in large-pen, auto-sort systems. The data from Purdue University is based on 1,229 head in auto-sort systems vs. 2,220 head in conventional facilities. There was a slight increase in percent lean and loin depth for automatic sorting. Less fighting leads to better meat quality and lowers stress, which lowers incidence of porcine stress syndrome, he says.

Probably the biggest plus for automatic sorting is that it teaches pigs to walk single file through chutes. “This makes them very calm at load out time,” he says.

Potential Drawbacks

Brummer says producers need to realize when shopping for an automatic sorting system that there may be some caveats, too. For example:

  • Realize an automatic sorting system may add $10,000 or more to the cost of a building project vs. conventional construction. Producers need to focus on throughput advantages to help make up the difference. Removing the center alley can help make up the cost difference.

  • Be aware that durability is an issue when there are a lot of moving parts and electronics in the harsh environment of a hog barn, Brummer says. Buy a product that can hold up to the extreme conditions, he stresses.

  • Understand there is a learning curve that comes with owning an auto-sort system. “You've got to commit to learning how to operate the system, train the pigs and manage the information,” he says.

  • Decide how you will treat sick pigs and remove dead animals. “This is probably the largest challenge of large-pen production,” says Brummer. “Properly locate hospital pens in an area that is not hot or cold and is hopefully close to the doors for pig removal.”

  • Understand there is very limited research data at this point on automatic sorting technology. “Track your closeouts and look at your own return on investment,” he says.

  • Be sure that the information at the scale head gets into the office or desktop, or to the person making the selling decisions for your farm, he concludes.

PIC Unveils Truck Sanitation System

PIC USA, a division of Sygen International, has developed a system to reduce disease transmission associated with livestock trailer movement.

Thermo-Assisted Drying and Decontamination (TADD) is based on a drying process that utilizes controlled heat and airflow to eliminate porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS).

TADD works by raising the interior temperature of trailers to 160∞ F. for 30 minutes to speed up complete drying and destruction of any PRRS virus particles, whatever the weather conditions. Four, 2-mil.-btu grain dryers are used for drying.

“The project began over three years ago as an idea by PIC veterinarians and logistics personnel to examine temperature and time required to effectively rid the trailer of this detrimental virus,” says Montse Torremorell, DVM, Health Assurance director for PIC.

At the company's request, University of Minnesota's Scott Dee, DVM, tested the effectiveness of the TADD system and found that it was as effective as overnight drying, but required far less downtime.

In a series of 10 replicates, the TADD system resulted in a 100% success rate in eliminating the PRRS virus in trailers.

Other methods were also tested, including forced air with no heat, a washing-only technique and overnight drying.

While overnight drying performed as well as TADD, its effectiveness was influenced by environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity.

PIC has elected to share all design, validation and performance data on TADD for the benefit of the swine industry (